I’m not a Hallowe’en person. As a kid, sure, but beyond the age of 15, it held no interest at all, in large part due to my not liking to be the centre of attention in a dressing up sort of way. I don’t particularly care if other adult-type people dress up, but I really have no interest in doing so. In the (non-)interest of (Hallowe’en), though, I wish I was more able to act a bit kooky or wear a costume, but it makes me quite uneasy. Which made agreeing to ‘act’ in a short movie this past summer a rather peculiar decision.
There are many reasons why I am not a performer. First of all, I am a self-conscious wreck (see above), am terrified of cameras (it is awfully hard to get a good photo of me), get terrible church giggles (not helped by the people with whom I was working), and I can’t act beyond (sometimes) getting away with a fake-it-’til-you-make-it attitude in stressful situations. All in all, not fantastic.
So why the hell did I agree to do it? A few reasons.
- It was being made by two longtime cinema staffers who made a very silly, nonsensical video last year and I felt a little left out that I didn’t get invited to be in it.
- I’m trying to expand my horizons and try new things. This was partly inspired by the TYSIC, though I have made no progress on the actual challenges I set for myself.
- I wanted to be able to, one day, say to my theoretical grandchildren, ‘Did I ever tell you about the time I was in a movie?’
- I was assured that I wouldn’t have to speak.
Not only was I asked to be in this project, but I was given a key role: as a circus tent. No, really. At first I was offended, as this was about 30lbs ago and I was quite self-conscious about my (relative) blorbiness, but they explained that I would wear a crazy long gown and be, like, a ship’s figurehead, just at the top of a circus tent. Yes, it sounds crazy. No, I didn’t not have to be topless/nearly unclothed (though, that might have been more comfortable under the very hot studio lights). But ‘Murder at the Circus’ is inspired by silent films and ridiculous in its old-fashionedness like Guy Maddin’s projects. But, y’know, with a budget of $1.87.
Even though I didn’t have any lines, I went to several rehearsals and read from terribly serious plays (Hedda Gabler? Me?) and did weird exercises that made me wince (sitting in a circle practicing heavy breathing? walking around asking anyone you ran into ‘Can I help you?). Drama school is weird, and even a couple of hours of this was really fucking weird for someone who hadn’t acted in anything since 1989 (I was ‘Suzy Smart’ in ‘The Trial of Goldilocks’ in grade 6 play). Grouchy Phil made it his mission to make me break in any scene too because he could tell I was barely hanging on most of the time. It was fun, but I definitely won’t be joining a community theatre any time soon.
I only had one day of shooting (in deepest, darkest Orleans), and all my scenes were by myself. I was dressed all in red (giant red skirt with a starched-to-hell crinoline, red blouse that reminded me a bit of Tootsie, crazy red wig) and made up to look like a decaying wooden doll. I was not meant to look beautiful,* as this circus is kind of a disaster (the knife thrower only has one eye!).
The artistic director/writer asked if I knew how to put on eyeliner. I laughed in his face (I am a total girl failure), and then apologized, so he put it on for me.
I had to act out being erected, looking wisely down at the masses and up at the moon, smirking a fucking lot (which is probably why they hired me – this is where I excel), swaying in the wind, and collapsing. You’d think any idiot could do this, but not this idiot. It took quite a long time. I laughed a lot. I forgot to look at the camera for key bits. I kept saying, aloud, ‘I can’t believe this is my life’. But I made it through without falling apart, and went home that night thinking ‘What just happened?’
‘Murder at the Circus’ is very, very slowly being edited. I might have to go back in to do some reshoots (I hope not) and/or a new scene where I am being dragged across the ground and thrown in a van, if the team can afford to rent equipment/hire people for another day, or, given my lack of acting chops and presence of Phil being required, three.
* I will post photos eventually.
We had a wrap party a few weeks ago (and two months after principal shooting ended) that was so swanky that the only beer available by 12:30am was PBR. I arrived late (I’m olde and was having a disco nap beforehand), so everyone had already seen the ‘give us more money please’ footage montage and thought it/I looked ‘great’. Several people also said they didn’t recognize me (which, yeah, is that a compliment?). I watched the footage too and thought everyone else looked absolutely amazing, but I had to look away during the, oh, 15 seconds I was on screen. This made the directors cranky, but whaddya gonna do? Nicole Kidman doesn’t like to watch her own movies either.